By Chris Ochayi
RESIDENTS of Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital are now asking what has become a familiar question all over again: When will the intermittent fuel scarcity and the resultant hardship end? The question is prompted by long queues witnessed at several filling station in the FCT as another round of fuel scarcity bites harder.
This was coming barely a week after residents endured over seven days of fuel scarcity following a strike action by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG and the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, over the privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN When the strike was eventually called off, Abuja residents had heaved a sigh of relief believing that their ordeal was over.
So it came as a rude shock to them when long queues began to build up in many filling stations at the weekend and on Monday as motorists scrambled to buy fuel following reports that petrol had become scarce again.
It will be recalled that the same development had a week ago, brought most business activities are almost to standstill as some residents spent the nights at the filling stations in order to buy the product. And as the face-off between the Federal government and major oil marketers continued, commuters, motorists and other road users in the FCT and its environs endured a hard time.
Abundant stock of petroleum products
Many filling stations in the city refused to open for business despite of assurances coming from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, that it had abundant stock of petroleum products to last for the next forty-five days.
The development partially disrupted the movement of people for the Eid el Fitri festivity holidays as the fuel scarcity ensured that they could not travel outside the city and had to stay indoors throughout the period of the holiday.
Before then, the last time Abuja residents experienced a similar hardship precipitated by the fuel scarcity was in 2011 following the nationwide strike triggered by the implementation of the controversial removal of the fuel subsidy.
At all the filling stations visited by Vanguard Metro, VM, it was more of tales of woe as angry motorists gave vent to their frustration at the development. For example, a commercial bus driver, who identified himself as Emeka who shuttles between Wuse and Nyanya, told VM at the African Petroleum Filling Station, Central Business district in the FCT that he had been on the queue for over three hours and wondered aloud when the ordeal would end.
The situation caused major traffic chaos around petrol stations as car owners scrambled to stay in line. Transport fares have also skyrocketed affecting movement of people and workers in the nation’s capital.
Consequently motorists were compelled to buy petrol at between N120 and N150 per litre at the black market. The situation almost got out of hand as the price of the product later skyrocketed, selling between N300 and N500 per litre as workers resumed work after the Sallah break.
The scarcity was also an opportunity to fuel marketers and dealers to make hay as they exploited the situation to cheat unsuspecting customers by adjusting their fuel pumping machine. Many of these marketers chose to sell the product at night, especially between 1.30 and 5.00 am to further maximise their exploitation of customers.
A particular filling station said to be owned by a former lawmaker at the National Assembly, was very notorious at outsmarting motorists by way of pump metre adjustments. The station allegedly sold at N130 per litre.
Vanguard Features observed that vehicles queuing for fuel at the station which is located at Lugbe, along the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua highway were few when compared with the queue in other stations, apparently because they had observed the sharp practices by the management of the station.
A black market dealer, who identified himself simply as Chubike regretted ever buying fuel from the station. Recounting his experience, Chubike stated that on the second day of the fuel scarcity, he went to buy fuel Kuje town in the Kuje Area Council of the FCT. According to him, he spent only N4, 500 to fill a 50 litre container.
“But the following day, I spent over N8, 000 to fill the same keg at that filling station. I won’t go there again because something is fundamentally wrong with their metre,.” he concluded.
Many other motorists who shared the same experience with Chubike, regretted that many Nigeria business men would always capitalised on this kind of situation to cheat on their fellow human beings.